The Turlock Irrigation District enacted a sweeping set of new penalties for irrigation water thieves earlier this month, but it hasn't had to use them yet.
The new penalties, adopted June 4, have thieves facing thousands of dollars in fines, reduced water availability, and the potential of losing all access to TID water. The district launched a new irrigation water theft tip line on June 11, and has been conducting increased patrols of canals in search of thieves.
In the past two weeks the district has received 21 calls to the tip line, though the majority were hangups, TID Water Distribution Manager Mike Kavarian said. Only “a couple” of callers voiced concerns about water theft.
Thus far, none of the calls have revealed actual water theft – though several leaks in ditches have been found.
“It just happened to be that most of their parcel was irrigated through the leaks,” Kavarian said of one instance.
Although no water thieves have been located, water usage has been down among TID customers since the new penalties were approved. The past week saw the second lowest order total for the period in the past 10 years.
“Historically, it's lower than we've had in the past,” Kavarian said. “… This week will be a relatively quiet week.”
Though orders were down last week, the district is still 43,854 acre-feet above usage projections for this point in the water year. Roughly 211,000 acre-feet of water have been used, versus 167,000 acre-feet projected.
About 51 percent of parcels have used more than 12 inches of irrigation water, Kavarian said, out of a 34 inch total allocation. Roughly 60 parcels are above 34 inches, though most of those are pump parcels which can use up to 46 inches of water.
“We're still in pretty good shape number wise, as far as the number of people who are going to run out of water,” Kavarian said.
The recent decrease in orders is likely attributable to cooler weather and light rainfall, reducing the need for irrigation water. TID water staff were not available to give their usual weekly presentation with specific rainfall numbers.
“I think they're all out doing a rain dance, which has proved to be pretty successful the past couple of days,” TID Board of Directors President Michael Frantz said.
To make an anonymous tip about irrigation water thieves, call (209) 883-3440.
On Tuesday, the Turlock Irrigation District Board of Directors also:
• Heard regular weekly updates on electrical service and power generation.
• Approved the creation of a new pump district near Hilmar, to be known as the Maciel-Peterson Pump.
• Changed a project definition so the district can use bonds, previously sold to finance the Almond Power Plant, to pay for roughly 50 percent of the Hughson-Grayson transmission line which supports the plant.
• Heard a monthly report on activities of the Financial Services Administration.
• Heard a report on the American Public Power Association National Conference, which was attended by three TID directors last week.
• Discussed two cases of anticipated litigation in closed session.